Discrimination is not an option
by Barbara Lee
Each year, the celebration of LGBT Pride Month reflects on how far we've come as a nation to end discrimination in all its forms. It is a powerful commemoration of life, love, and belonging, especially for a community who are consistently criminalized and hated because of who they are and who they love.
While this month is about celebration, it is also about standing in solidarity. It is about remembering our dark past and working for a brighter tomorrow.
The recent tragedy in Orlando targeted the LGBT community and claimed 49 innocent lives and wounded 53 others. The horrific scenes from that night remind us that our work, as a community and as a nation, is far from over.
We must recommit ourselves to ending violence, hate, and discrimination against the LGBT community. And that starts by proudly standing together – as one community – against those that would turn back the clock.
As vice chair and a founding member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, I am proud to bring the East Bay's values of love and acceptance to Washington, D.C. Sadly, these values are rare in Congress.
But, we cannot be deterred and we will not stand silent. We must use every megaphone available to uplift and empower this community, especially the most vulnerable.
This year, I've been proud of Congressman Mike Honda's (D-San Jose) efforts to highlight the disparities that negatively impact the trans community. One of our most successful efforts has been the simplest: just getting members of Congress to meet and speak with members of the trans community. An amazing shift of opinion occurs when policy makers have an opportunity to meet their trans constituents and better understand their life and challenges.
However, there are still those who simply refuse to engage with the LGBT community. In fact, they pursue dangerous and discriminatory policies simply out of ignorance and hate.
Most recently, this fight has come to our nation's annual spending bills.
Earlier this month, Republicans killed the Energy and Water spending bill because it included employee protections for LGBT Americans that work for federal contractors.
But this wasn't the first time that discrimination has impacted our nation's ability to pass budgetary measures.
On May 19, Republicans broke centuries of House protocol and held open a vote past the expired time. They used that extra time to twist the arms of their members to prevent a similar employment non-discrimination amendment from being added to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill. Despite our state's long history of supporting LGBT Californians, four California Republicans changed their votes to allow federal contractors, who are paid with your tax dollars, to discriminate against their LGBT employees.
This is simply wrong. Our tax dollars shouldn't go to companies that discriminate against people because of who they love or who they are.
However, this fight isn't just happening in Congress. Decades of ignorance and stigma have created a host of government policies that discriminate against LGBT Americans and families.
Following the tragic events in Orlando, thousands rushed to blood banks to give their support to the victims. This selfless act became a renewed front of discrimination as gay and bisexual men were turned away because of a decades-old policy stigmatizing them as high-risk for HIV.
Let me be clear: this policy has no scientific basis. In fact, gay and bisexual male blood donors have a lower HIV prevalence than the general public.
I have been working to end this policy for years, and we are making new headway in this fight because people are realizing that blood is blood and this outdated policy is based on stereotypes, not science.
While our fight for equality is not over, we put more wins on the board every day.
I'm so proud to celebrate Pride with you this month and to stand with you in this fight. We are going to win because love is love.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents California's 13th District, which includes the cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, and San Leandro.